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Citizens Commission on Human Rights Award Recipient (Twice)
Humanist, humorist

Friday, August 30, 2019

Atheism is a "Challenging Psychiatric Condition"



I first heard the term, 'agnostic atheist ' on a chat show. British comedian/writer, Ricky Gervais told chatshow host, Stephen Colbert, "I am an agnostic atheist technically. Agnostic means, no one knows there’s a god so everyone is technically agnostic. We don’t know."

Gervais argued his points with such eloquence that even Colbert, a practising Catholic, commended him. However, there was no conclusion in this short debate because the fact is nobody knows for certain if there is or is not a "God."

This brings me to another topic this blog typically covers: the field of psychiatry. It's no mystery that psychiatry has built its house on a shaky foundation of sand. As the public increasingly sees this foundation eroding, the public is treated to new claims and official acknowledgements by "key opinion leaders." One more recent example is the official acknowledgement by the Royal College of Psychiatrists that they no longer believe in the chemical imbalance "theory." (Let's not mention that this "theory" originated not from scientific data but from the marketing department of major pharmaceutical companies.)

But today I don't want to discuss myths; I want to discuss a real story, that of Mubarak Bala (Pictured above). In 2014, Bala was a 29-year-old chemical process engineer living in Nigeria. Like Gervais, he also didn't believe in god. For sharing his personal views on religion, he was held in a secure psychiatric ward at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital after declaring himself an atheist. (1)

Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital

Bala was reportedly forced into the psychiatric unit after his family, who were staunch Muslims, declared him insane and sent him, against his will, for a psychiatric evaluation. Once there he was told he had "psychological problems that predate his renunciation of Islam." (2)

Bala was able to tweet from the hospital bathroom after he had smuggled a phone into the unit. The tweets are still available (3) and make for harrowing reading:

"This is Mubarak, (@mubarakbala) the Ex-Muslim from the Shari’ah State of Kano, Nigeria. I can only reach you today because I have been sedated (tranquillized) with an injection administered on those who are mentally unstable."

"Now, I woke up only to realize their new doctor has prescribed drugs and injections for me as a psycho patient.  It is the same Doctor that told me last week on a ‘mock’ therapy, that ‘everyone needs God.’"

"What I fear is; the injections and drugs have started shifting my facial orientation and affecting my speech and reasoning, my hands are now shivering on their own."

Human Rights organisations were quick off the mark and contacted the hospital. They were told Bala had a "challenging psychiatric condition which needed close treatment and supervision."

Many stories appeared in 2014 and after being held against his will for 18 days inside the locked unit, Bala was released. He was not given his freedom for the reasons one would expect. He was released because a doctors' strike precipitated the discharge of many patients. (4)

Last year, Bala, in an interview with Humanist Voices, said of his time in the unit, "I was drugged, by force. With drugs that were administered to psychotic and schizophrenic patients. Also, I was sedated which made me weak to fight back. Of the drugs given to me, were also found to be for epileptic patients. I was never epileptic. But it induced a lot of weird feelings that almost drove me crazy. I was there for 18 days. I tried to keep calm, earn their trust after, so I could be trusted with the drugs to take by myself, which I hid or threw away."

Like Gervais, I am an agnostic atheist technically. For the most part, I don't staunchly claim as fact beliefs for which there is no proof. It seems that psychiatrists do just that, however, given we frequently see the field of psychiatry making dangerous claims that are presented as factual, but not supported by credible data and/or scientific evidence.

We are now in 2019 and claims, without evidence, are still dished out by psychiatrists across the globe. Admittedly, I've not seen many stories of atheists like Bala who are incarcerated and drugged for their beliefs, but I have read testimonies from thousands of patients who received treatments similar to Bala's despite their protestations.

Gervais hit the nail on the head when using the science argument against the belief system of God. We could use his words to debate the belief system of psychiatry given the 'evidence' the field typically presents is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a psychiatric bible written by mere mortals.

"Science is constantly proved all of the time. You see if we take something like any fiction, any holy book, and any other fiction and destroyed it, in a thousand years time that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if we took every science book and every fact and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back because all the same tests would be the same result."

I'll leave the last words to Mubarak Bala, words that are echoed daily by other victims:

"What I fear is; the injections and drugs have started shifting my facial orientation and affecting my speech and reasoning, my hands are now shivering on their own."

Bob Fiddaman

References
(1) Nigerian Atheist Held in Psychiatric Ward
(2) Nigeria family forces atheist son into mental ward, lawyer says
(3) Nigerian atheist Mubarak Bala held hostage in a psychiatric ward for renouncing Islam and non-belief in God
(4) Nigeria atheist Bala freed from Kano psychiatric hospital

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